Monday 28 January 2013

Bird Free Weekend

I had one of those thankfully rare weekends, from a completely obsessed birders point of view, where family commitments kept me from getting out birding. I had of course to feed the Turnstones and my farmland birds, so I can at least report on that!

At my farmland bird feeding station on the Moss were the usual 120 Tree Sparrows accompanied by 15-20 Chaffinches and at least two Bramblings. I say at least two Bramblings as I heard two different birds calling, but of course there could have been a few more. On the way on to the Moss I had Barn Owl and on the way off Little Owl, so that was nice.

After I had fed the Turnstones I hung around in the car park for ten minutes to see how many leg flagged birds I could re-sight and amongst the 80 or so 'Terry's' I read the leg flags of 14 birds, including one bird that hasn't been seen since ringing on 16th December 2012. .

So that was my rather unfortunate bird free weekend.I'll try not to let it happen again!

Thursday 24 January 2013

If I was a betting man.........

.........I would have put good money on Peter, Graham, Ian and I catching and 'leg-flagging' a few Turnstones this morning, but it wasn't to be. There has been good numbers all week at the feeding station and despite the high tides being fairly low, we decided to attempt a catch because of this. However, what we couldn't factor in was the disturbance from people walking their dogs just at the critical time as the Turnstones were approaching the catching area. Somebody would walk past and they would either fly or run off. Eventually we called it time as it just wasn't going to happen this morning.

We'll be trying again in a couple of weeks time when there will be a series of tides over 9 metres high. The weather is looking a bit rough for the next week; mild but with strong southwesterly winds. It could be good for a spot of winter seawatching mind you!

No 'Terry's' for us this morning!

Sunday 20 January 2013

Empty Estuary

At first light under heavy grey skies with a keen easterly wind, or a lazy wind as they would say in Norfolk because it goes straight through you, I set off down the path to the estuary. In the half-light I could hear the 'pop pop' of shotguns and the call of 'Pinkies' taking flight. When I got to the estuary it was pretty devoid of birds due to the disturbance by the shooters.

There were quite a few Blackbirds along the Hawthorn lined path to the estuary and in total I had 20. I had a look on the pool and it held four Pochards, 21 Tufted Ducks, 29 Coots, two Wigeons and five Mallards.

I bumped into Ian and we headed across the peninsula to have a look on the sea. By this time there was more northerly in the wind and it was biting standing there without any shelter. The sea was relatively quiet other than 25 Red-throated Divers heading north.

Driving away from the coast Ian spotted the Kestrel below that looks as though it was in the process of devouring what looked like a wader; Sanderling perhaps? It had no intention of giving its meal up and it stayed put when people walked past it within a few yards! 

Saturday 19 January 2013

Frozen Moss

I got to my feeding station at first light this morning and it was a touch chilly! It was a bit of a miserable morning with leaden skies, a keen easterly wind and snow flurries later in the morning. I dumped a load of seed on the ground, topped up the niger and peanut feeders, put some apples out and then headed off for a walk. At the feeding station were 30 Chaffinches, three Fieldfares, 151 Tree Sparrows and five Blackbirds.

It was quiet as I headed up the '97 hedge' other than 800 Jackdaws heading east to feed after exiting a roost somewhere and odd groups of Pink-footed Geese totalling 76 as they too headed east in search of feeding areas.

 Pink-footed Geese

Up on to the top fields and through the spoiled crops I put up 11 Skylarks, two Song Thrushes and 14 Corn Buntings. I headed off to the plantation that was quiet other than a small flock of six Bramblings associating with some Goldfinches. Amongst the ' Bramble Finches' were at least two stonking males. The picture below doesn't do them justice and you can just make out that there is the odd Brambling in the shot.

 Bramblings and Goldfinches - honest!

At this point the snow started coming down and all I could add were three Lapwings heading east and a couple of Yellowhammers back at the car.

It's going to be cold again tomorrow and just a tadd breezy for ringing so I think I will have a look at the estuary in the morning as I haven't been for a while and then I'll feed the Turnstones and hopefully re-sight a number of our leg-flagged birds.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Splash and Dash

I've got a busy week work wise this week and my birding will be limited to feeding my farmland birds and feeding the Turnstones. Yesterday afternoon I bobbed out to my feeding station and it was a glorious afternoon. Looking east the fells looked resplendent with their icing sugar coating and it was tempting to go off for a walk and not to head back to the office to pour over the maps I had just left.

In the field next to the track were two Mistle Thrushes feeding on the sheep mowed turf along with 12 Fieldfares and a number of Starlings. Raptors were represented by two Kestrels and a calling Buzzard; no sign of the regular irregular Little Owls today!

At the feeding station proper were a Yellowhammer, 82 Tree Sparrows and 15 Chaffinches. At first I was concerned about the lack of numbers of Tree Sparrows and Chaffinches at the feeding station and then I remembered that this is often the case when I call in the afternoon. Birds generally arrive at my feeding station shortly after first light and by mid-afternoon they have either moved off to feed elsewhere or they have started heading off towards their roost site.

As I headed back to my car and ultimately back to those maps, two Jays called noisily from the wood.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Access All Areas

It would seem that the prerequisite to access any piece of land that you like is either by having a dog or holding a large lens with camera attached!

Yesterday morning Ian and I watched a bird photographer exercise the most appalling field craft as he pursued his quarry, a Short-eared Owl. We were watching the Short-eared Owls from the footpath alongside the road overlooking the site and were having stonking views, but this clown wasn't satisfied with this.

Having a large lens he obviously knew that he was allowed to go wherever he pleased so he was entitled to push through a hole in the fence and then trespass on to the site to get his all important 'shots'! What was sad was that this same guy was photographing the Short-eared Owls the day before and we even commented on the fact that he was sticking to the footpath and what a change it was to see somebody behaving responsibly.

What happened yesterday I don't know, he probably suddenly realised he had the 'universal pass' of a large lens! After committing his act of trespass he then jumped over a ditch and was running across the fields chasing the 'Shorties' wherever they went! He then obviously thought that running up to them and flushing them wasn't working and thought it better to hide behind a hedge until one came along. He didn't stay there long and was soon back on the chase!

What thoroughly p*sses me off about this type of behaviour is that there is no consideration for the bird. It was a cold day with a hard frost and these birds were actively trying to feed. Maybe this clown thought they were putting on a display just for him! What consumes some of these characters is their lust for the perfect shot and this is also their motivation. I take pictures of birds, but my motivation is a love of the birds and the awe that I hold them in. For these clowns the motivation is the perfect shot and there is no respect for the bird.

I must hasten to add that I don't think all bird photographers are like this as a good number that I know are very respectful of the bird and demonstrate good field craft. Anyway we know who this clown is and will be keeping an eye on him!

Sunday 13 January 2013

Few Birds and No Pictures

It was a frosty start for Craig, Huw and I at the feeding station this morning and when it is frosty it can work in two ways; it can either bring more birds in, or move birds away and this morning it was the latter.

We ringed 11 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Chaffinch - 6 (3)
Goldfinch - 2 (1)
Tree Sparrow - 2
Blue Tit - 1 (2)

As I have stated numerous times before it is really difficult to estimate the number of birds visiting the feeding station when you are ringing, so all I will say is that there were less Chaffinch and Tree Sparrows than a couple of days ago.

Pink-footed Geese were moving around this morning and about three hundred were moving in all directions to feed in flocks of varying sizes. We only had a couple of Corn Buntings this morning and only singles of Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Brambling and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Raptors were represented by a single Buzzard and a Peregrine that shot past the front of a woodland and then returned on the other side. On the way off the site a couple of Little Owls were perched up in one of their favourite, infrequent locations, if that isn't too much of a contradiction of terms!

Saturday 12 January 2013

More Leg Flags Fitted to Turnstones

Peter, Huw, Graham, Ian and I met at the 'Terry' feeding station this morning and set up the whoosh net with the aim of catching and marking some Turnstones, and we were hoping we would have better luck than in the week! Straight away a group of Turnstones came in for the food and we managed to catch 14. We were really pleased with the catch and now we have 45 Turnstones in circulation with leg flags on. Out of the 14 only one was aged as a 2CY bird, the rest were adults.

 Above and below; Turnstone 'BO'

Huw gallantly gave up his bacon and egg sandwiches for the cause and we used these as bait to catch a couple of Black-headed Gulls and five Starlings. One of the 'Black-heads' was an adult and the other was a 3CY bird.

 Black-headed Gull

It's looking like it will be fit for a ringing session at my farmland bird feeding station tomorrow so it will be interesting to see how may Tree Sparrows we can ring. I'll keep you posted as always. 

Friday 11 January 2013

Weekly Update and Another Book Recommendation

It has been a quiet week for me birding-wise this week for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones being the dense fog that we have had over a number of days. I have been visiting my feeding station every other day and numbers of Tree Sparrow and Chaffinch are building up. Currently there are about 200 Tree Sparrows and 60-70 Chaffinches.

Yesterday we had a failed attempt at catching and marking some Turnstones. The 'Terry's' were reluctant to come in for the food we have being out out as they seemed to prefer foraging amongst the grass for invertebrates. The other factor was an idiot with his three collie dogs that chased the Turnstones completely off the site. I have come to the conclusion that most dog walkers must be illiterate as they seem not to be able to read signs put out by the local authority requiring them to keep their dogs on a lead!

I read a great book recently called 'Wild Hope - On the Front Lines of Conservation Success' by Andrew Balmford. Andrew takes a 'cup half full approach' to look at several conservation success stories from around the world where unlikely people have got together for a variety of reasons to solve some conversation problems. Don't be fooled as Andrew does point out the perilous state that the world's biodiversity is in, but his case studies illustrate that there is a way to solve some of these problems if there is a will to do it. He finishes the book with a chapter on 'Stemming the Loss - Or what We Can All Do to Save Nature' and we all can take something from this and put it in place. An excellent read!

Sunday 6 January 2013

Fogged Off!

As I headed to the obs this morning I was driving through dense fog. I hoped that when the sun rose it would burn the fog off, but unfortunately this didn't happen. As I unlocked the gate to the obs I could hear a Song Thrush singing from the copse in the half-light and it made me think that nine weeks today would probably see the first Wheatear for the Spring at the obs. I shouldn't wish my life away!

I spent the next hour walking a circuit that would normally take me a few hours and seeing next to nothing. A calling Grey Wagtail and two Mistle Thrushes perched on posts were the meagre entrants in my notebook. As I walked round I could hear calling Pink-footed Geese and I could tell that above the murk they were heading north. At one point a patch of fog cleared enough for me to see 21 high flying 'Pinkies' heading NNE.

 Looking over the beach from the foggy obs

The moisture in the air showed the spiders ground web traps clearly

I fed the Tursnstones in the fog and called it a day heading home.

Saturday 5 January 2013

First Ringing Session Of The Year

This morning I met Craig and Heather at the feeding the station for our first ringing session of the year. We were blessed with the weather as it was flat calm and the sun even made an appearance!

The first bird we had was a stonking Barn Owl that floated across the field next to the ringing station and up and over the adjacent hedge. Nice! The only other raptor we had were two calling Buzzards.

Birds were certainly moving around this morning and moving birds included ten Whooper Swans, 760 Pink-footed Geese, four Corn Buntings, Brambling and three Siskins. As always it is difficult to tell just how many birds are using the feeding station when you are ringing  but there was probably over a hundred Tree Sparrows, 20-30 Chaffinches and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

 Tree Sparrow

We ringed 23 birds as follows (recaptures in brackets):

Chaffinch - 11 (1)
Tree Sparrow - 6
Great Tit - 2 (2)
Blue Tit - 3 (8)
Robin - 1 (1)


The 'eagle-eyed' amongst you will have noticed that over to the right I have posted the final totals for our (Fylde) ringing group. By the end of 2012 we had ringed 3,723 birds of 66 species which is 747 down on 2011's totals. Considering the wet year it was I think we did quite well, so let's hope for some better weather this year!

As usual I have detailed the top ten 'movers and shakers' below.

1. Chaffinch - 370 (up from 2nd)
2. Greenfinch - 367 (down from 1st)
3. Swallow - 317 (same position)
4. Goldfinch - 289 (up from 6th)
5. Tree Sparrow - 271 (down from 4th)
6. Blue Tit - 267 (down from 5th)
7. Blackbird - 147 (up from 9th)
8. Great Tit - 146 (same position)
9. Lesser Redpoll - 144 (down from 7th)
10. Meadow Pipit - 112 (same position)

During December we ringed 171 birds and the majority of these were in the first part of the month when there were a few days conducive to operating mist nets. The top five ringed in December were as follows:

1. Goldfinch - 36
2. Turnstone - 30
3. Chaffinch - 27
4. Blackbird - 17
5. Brambling - 12

No ringing for me tomorrow, just some birding around the 'obs'. It might be a bit foggy at first light, but hopefully it will clear fairly quickly. I'll let you know if it does.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Another Book Recommendation

New Year's Day saw Gail and I at my feeding station for the first feed of 2013 and amazingly the sun was shining! It was still blustery with a cool westerly wind, but it was nice to have sight of the orange ball for a change.

As we headed down the track 65 Fieldfares went over and 155 Lapwings were in the flooded field. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew away from the feeding station as we approached as did 95 Tree Sparrows and 12 Chaffinches.

A number of Woodpigeons were moving from copse to copse this morning and in total we had 2,450 that would occasionally be spooked by the three Buzzards that were knocking about. Other than the Buzzards raptors were represented by males of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk.

Along the '97 hedge' were only two each of Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Grey Partridge. Amongst the stubbles and spoiled crops were eight Skylarks, four Corn Buntings, three Song Thrushes and seven Redwings. No sign of the 'monster' Chaffinch flock of recent weeks.

In the plantation two Jays went noisily about their business and a flock of 13 Long-tailed Tits accompanied by a Goldcrest moved through the trees.

If you've still got some Christmas money left over I have another book to recommend to you that I finished this afternoon; this is 'Mushrooms' by Peter Marren. For those of you familiar with that excellent and essential publication if you are a keen naturalist 'British Wildlife' you will know Peter's writing through his 'Twitcher In The Swamp' column. As the dust jacket states this book "provides a remarkable insight into the natural and human world of fungi" and it does exactly what it says on the tin. I am no expert on mushrooms, in fact I only have a passing interest taking note of more obvious species when out birding, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and learnt a great deal. So if you have a keen or passing interest in fungi, treat yourself to this book, you won't be disappointed!